Photo Illustration by Benajil Rai / Multimedia Director

When deciding on where to go to college, people will carefully consider plenty of different characteristics each school they’re looking at possesses. People might look at where a school is located, how many students go there, what the school’s town is like and so many more elements. But for Maggie and Emma Cahoon, a pair of sisters on the Keene State field hockey team, picking Keene State was easy – it’s part of their family’s history.

Maggie, who is now a junior, and Emma, a first-year, are the 12th and 13th members of their family to go to Keene State College, preceded by their mother and father along with multiple aunts, uncles and cousins who have attended the college dating back to the late 1970s. Plus, Maggie and Emma’s mother, Liz Cahoon, has worked at Keene State in the admissions office for the past 30 years, where she currently serves as the Associate Director of Admissions.

“I do have a lot of aunts who went to Keene State, a total of three aunts,” Emma said. “My mom has a lot of siblings; she’s one of nine. One of her older sisters came to Keene State and then a lot just followed after that. So it’s kind of just in the family. One went, then everyone else followed afterwards I guess.”

“My older sister, Eileen, had come here late in the 1970s and then my other sister, Annie, also was a student at Keene State,” Liz said. “Then my younger sister, Jenna, graduated from Keene State after me. I felt like for me, I was a little bit nervous about heading to college because I was very close with my family, so this was a great option for me. I thought I’d go there for a year and then maybe transfer to somewhere further away or a larger university. But after my first year here, there was nothing getting me to leave. It was just a great fit for me.”

Maggie and Emma both think the same thing now too: Keene State is a great fit for them. However, the two sisters had different paths that led them here during their college search. One thing to note is that the Cahoon family lives in Keene, which made going to Keene State sensible, but not necessarily ideal at first in Maggie’s opinion.

“I originally went to the University of New Hampshire (UNH) my freshman year,” Maggie said. “I just wanted to get out of Keene originally, I did not want to be here. Emma and I grew up here, we live like five minutes away. I just didn’t want to be around my hometown, family, all that. But I got to UNH and I thought it was horrible. I’d always loved Keene State, it was the perfect size, it was a great location, it just felt too much like home.”

Feeling lost her first year, Maggie received help from Keene State’s field hockey coach, Amy Watson, who had known her for the past ten years.

“So then when I came back to visit one weekend, I met with Coach Watson, and she said, ‘If you want to transfer back, if you want to play, you’re more than welcome to,’ and I think that just kind of stuck in my head,” Maggie said. “This is where I belonged more than some big school. So I transferred back to play field hockey but also to be closer to my family. I think it’s the perfect school, so I was just happy to be somewhere a little more comfortable, a little smaller.”

For Emma, however, there was little doubt in her mind at any point that Keene State College was the place she wanted to go.

“Growing up I only ever wanted to go to Keene State,” Emma said. “I was like, ‘Yep, I’m going to go to Keene State, I’m going to be a teacher, and that’s that.’ Then when I got to high school, I thought, ‘Nope, not going to Keene State, my mom works there, I’m not going there, I grew up going there.’ But then when Maggie went to UNH for her first semester of college and transferred to Keene State I thought, ‘Yeah, I don’t know why I ever thought that I wouldn’t go to Keene, it’s the place that felt like home.’ Growing up we used to always say we wished Keene State was in a different town because we loved it and we loved the community in it and everything, it was a perfect size for us. But when I started applying to colleges I instantly applied, because I love it here, and it doesn’t matter that it’s in Keene because it’s a whole separate world. Everybody says it feels like home, but to me it was home, because I grew up here.”

Part of the reason why Maggie transferring to Keene State made the decision so much easier for Emma is the fact that the two aren’t just sisters; they’re best friends.

“We’re best friends, we love hanging out together,” Emma said. “We both say we’re pretty lucky that we’re so close because we know a lot of siblings aren’t close. So we got really lucky. We’ve been close our entire lives, which is really nice. To have her at school is super awesome. I can go to her for anything if I need help and stuff like that. Having her as a teammate, we played together in high school, but playing together at Keene State is awesome because we watched Keene State growing up, our parents brought us to every game. The fact that we’re playing for Coach Watson and we watched her growing up coaching and winning so many championships is pretty awesome, and I get to do it with my best friend.”

“We come from a very close family,” Maggie said. “My mom has a lot of siblings and she’s very close with them, so I think it’s been ingrained in our raising by our parents that you can always have friends, but at the end of the day your family’s always going to be there for you. It’s strange that as we grew up we just got closer, we never really had problems. We always opt to hang out together instead of with other people. We try to make an effort to see each other every day, she’s on campus and I’m off [campus]. I don’t think I’ve had a friend like her. I just never get sick of spending time with her.”

Furthermore, Maggie and Emma’s mother, Liz, had the same privilege of going to Keene State at the same time as one of her sisters.

“My older sister Annie was a senior during my first year here,” Liz said. “That was great because Annie is very outgoing, very sociable, so it made it easier for me to meet people. She introduced me to a bunch of folks, so it made my transition a little bit easier. I’m a little more reserved than she is, so it was a great gift to have her here my first year.”

As Maggie and Emma grew up, one of the things that helped form their strong bond was playing field hockey, which each of them have now been doing for over ten years, dating back to elementary school. Ironically enough though, Maggie and Emma didn’t have to wait until they got to Keene State to play for the Owls head coach, Amy Watson. Rather, it was Watson who helped the Cahoon sisters discover their love for field hockey when they were just kids, thanks to a youth program she started called ‘Trilogy Field Hockey.’

“Field hockey when we were in elementary school wasn’t a big thing in Keene, kids didn’t play it,” Emma said. “But then Coach Watson actually started a program, like a feeder program to the middle school, and that kind of sparked it. I was going into second grade and Maggie was going into fourth and our mom signed us up because she was friends with Coach Watson and they knew each other from both working at Keene State. My mom also signed us up because she played field hockey in high school, and then we fell in love with it. It was Coach Watson who got us into field hockey, so that’s pretty cool that we really have come full circle with her.”

“The first year we did [Trilogy Field Hockey], I think Emma was one of our youngest kids in that group, it was pretty wild,” Watson said. “Maggie’s like two years older than her, but that’s when they started playing, so it was pretty cool.”

In fact, it’s not just Keene State that’s ingrained in the Cahoon family, but sports like field hockey and soccer are as well, as Maggie and Emma’s aunts played field hockey, and their father, Jake Cahoon, played soccer at Keene State in the 80s.

“That whole family, the Acerno family, which were their maiden names, they were field hockey people back in the day,” Watson said. “All the girls in that family played field hockey. So when Liz found out that we were starting a field hockey thing, she was psyched to have her kids try it. But their father, Jake, he was a soccer guy. So it was a little battle I remember when we first started getting the Cahoon girls into field hockey, Jake and I would kind of spar back and forth about like, ‘Ah, you’ve got them now!’ But he was really cool about it, he’s very supportive of his daughters playing field hockey.”

Furthermore, sports were a big part of the relationship that developed at Keene State between Maggie and Emma’s parents, Liz and Jake.

“My husband [Jake] was on the soccer team,” Liz said. “At the time, they were playing on Joyce Field, so it was much easier to go to games and they were very popular, there were always huge crowds there. My friends and I used to go to the games just for something to do, we had some friends who were on the team, and we typically sat in one of the first or second rows and we’d tease [Jake] because the first half of his first season at Keene he sat the bench. So we were able to chat a little bit.”

Along with continuing their family’s legacy of playing field hockey, Maggie and Emma are also majoring in the same field of study that their mother did, business management, and they are both tour guides for the admissions office, just as their mom and aunts were 30 to 40 years ago.

“My older sister Annie was a tour guide in admissions during her time at Keene State and my sophomore year the office asked if I’d be interested in being a tour guide,” Liz said. “So I gave tours my sophomore year through my senior year.”

“My mom runs the tour guide program and her boss [Peg Richmond] is my aunt,” Maggie said. “Now my sister is a tour guide too. It’s kind of just our family thing I guess.”

All in all, when asking each of the Cahoon family members what Keene State means to them, they all have one similar, yet simple answer.

“Home,” said Liz. “Just home, that’s it. I remember when we were told that we had to go home for COVID-19, and I remember the first time I had to drive back to campus after months. I drove down Main Street, taking my old route back to campus, and I got this strange feeling like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve done this for 29 years,’ and not being able to do it was really hard. Seeing the campus empty was just crazy. Home is what it is.”

“It’s my home,” Emma said. “Everybody always says that, ‘Your college is your home,’ but like growing up in Keene and coming to Keene State all the time, it’s actually home. We would come to my mom’s programs, open houses, admitted students days, we would always eat in the D.C. [Dining Commons], so it was a huge part of our childhood. It really has been home, and the fact that our parents met here and it’s where their relationship started, it’s just home.”

“Home is a good word for it,” Maggie said. “I guess when I try to explain it to people, I tell them that there’s literally no place I would rather be than here. Everybody calls me ‘Ms. Keene State’ because I’ve lived here [for so long]. All my friends make fun of me and say I’m a ‘townie.’ I always try to back it up by making my mom Mrs. Keene State, like my parents had their wedding reception in the Mabel Brown Room at Keene, so I always try to push it on my mom.”

In the future, even if there aren’t any more Cahoon family members attending school or working at Keene State, there will always be one physical token of remembrance that keeps the Cahoon family spirit at Keene State.

“There’s a magnolia tree just outside the admissions office that’s absolutely beautiful, and that was planted in memory of my dad when he passed away,” Liz said. “A bunch of folks got together and planted it in his honor. So it’s kind of cool because we get to look out at it all the time.”


Matt Holderman can be contacted at:

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